Jan 03, 2011

Being Creative: Digitally Speaking

A well-known contemporary author recently wrote that “anyone can be creative.”

Come on.

A child in the third grade armed with a paper plate, a bottle of glue and a pile of jellybeans can ‘be creative’. Within the context of a commercial world in which seemingly infinite amounts of data must be built, manipulated, deconstructed and built again, being creative isn’t so simple as an elementary art class project. Quite an effort is required to creatively align passion, purpose and profitability in a system defined by the constant struggle between remaining in business and going out of business.

All right, so being creative isn’t easy. Got it. So who can do it and how’s it done? To be clear, there are many components — some controllable, some not — that must be considered.

In a commercial world dominated by a digital framework, the prospect of being creative is made complicated by the sheer volume of available toolsets.

There was a time in the not-so-distant past in which the options for creative communication had three basic forms: a paintbrush, a chisel and a musical instrument of some sort — the human voice included. Those basic toolsets remained mostly unchanged for centuries, even millennia. A notable addition did occur some time in the eighth century A.D. with the invention of the quill pen.

Around 170 years ago, creative communication vaulted into new territories after the invention of still photography and the camera. A mere 50 years more is all that was required to turn still pictures into moving pictures.

Move another 100 years up the timeline and the options multiply exponentially with the creation of the World Wide Web and the digital landscape it enabled. Digital media has not merely created a broader toolset, but has fundamentally changed the perception and application of all media that preceded it, including the original brush, chisel and serenading, lovelorn poet. Some of the greatest modern writers have never seen a quill pen. Grand murals consistent with the masters of antiquity are wholly conceived, prepared and applied via digital means. Digitally controlled machines are now capable of producing complicated “sculptures” through a process known as Rapid Prototyping.

Evaluating and manipulating the myriad options available for compelling communications in the digital realm is hard, and it isn’t for everyone. But, that does not mean that it is not fun. In the coming weeks, this column will explore the characteristics of ‘creative’ people, the means by which they manage to remain ‘creative’, the positions they take in the workspace and the impact their creativity has on our digital world.

Stay tuned for a wild ride.


(Contributed by Jeremy Pope)